Psychoneuroimmunology Essay

1749 words - 7 pages

Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) theory proposed by Mary P. Bennett is a review of the science that connects psychological processes and the immune system. Stress has a positive and negative effect on health. Good stress is short and helps us overcome physical barriers. Bad stress is prolonged chronic stress. (Bennett, 1999) Stress can affect immune function by manifestations of chronic emotional and behavioral stressors. Chronic manifestations of stress can change heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating, as well as; creating anxiety, fear, tension, anger, and sadness. (Jaremka, Lindgren & Kiecolt-Glaser, 2013) If these stressors continue for an increased duration, the body cannot maintain homeostasis or equilibrium, causing a drop in immune function. (Herbert & Cohen, 1993) This is important for nursing because good caring and empathetic nursing can be a tool to help decrease chronic stress seen in health care. The science of PNI helps relate the consequences of health status to the interactions between psychological states and physiological function. It also strengthens the need for therapeutic complementary interventions in nursing.
PNI theory of health dates back about four thousand years to ancient Chinese medicine. Chinese “doctors” noted that after a time of great frustration or anguish, a time of physical illness followed. (Soukup, 2012) Robert D. McDonald and Kan Yagi published the first study done in the field of PNI that had significant results proving the relationship between the brain (psychoneuro) and body (immune), in 1960. They looked at the immune system changes in military men who were led to believe that their misuse of explosives in a field training simulation had accidently caused serious injuries to a companion. These subjects were directed into a small room with a disassembled phone switchboard. The subjects were asked to reassemble the switchboard in order to call for help for their injured companions. The effects were compared against a control group of subjects with no stress. The subject’s eosinophil blood concentrations were taken previously as a baseline and again after the test. The subjects placed under high stress conditions had a mean percent drop of 30% eosinophil blood concentrations with control groups mean percent drop of only 7%. (McDonald & Yagi, 1960) Since then over seventy-five studies have proven that short-term and long-term natural stressors have had a stress-related increases in numbers of total white blood cells, as well as decreases in the number of T-cells ( helper T-cells, suppressor T-cells, and Cytotoxic T-cells), B-cells, and natural killer cells (NK). (McCorkle, Seligman, & Schmidt, 2001) They also reported a decrease function of NK and T-cells. More recently, an interest in the link between interpersonal stressors such as loneliness, marital conflict, caring for persons with chronic medical conditions, and interpersonal stressors on immune function in health care providers has risen.
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